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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maple Sugar Tour 2011


I thought you'd like to see some photos from this year's maple sugar season, in case you didn't make it up to Vermont. Sit back and enjoy, since I've done the legwork! 


It's been a long, snowy, and now muddy, winter up here.  It was so cold for so long, that the maple season was somewhat delayed.  To make the sap run, the trees like to be cold at night and warm during the day; we got the first part right, anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, the Vermont Maple people had the annual maple sugar open house around the state. And even though the season was really just getting underway, there was a fair bit of action. The bigger problem were the muddy, unpaved roads; fortunately, we've just had the suspension replaced on the Jeep. In fact, the deeply-rutted muck was so bad that at times the syrup-tasting crowd approaching a sugarhouse looked more like the Normandy invasion.

But of course it's always worth it, especially when greeted by the kind of whimsy reserved for sugarhouses. Morse Farm  in Montpelier is known for great syrup, and a few oddities. Burr Morse runs the operation, and dispenses large amounts of both syrup and good cheer.

He has this in common with all the other Maple People; and this cheeriness is oddly foreign to those of us in high-stress jobs. Indeed, the MP seem to have discovered the secret of happiness. (Clue: it's in the evaporator)






Burr Morse

And this year, we made the trek once again to Elm Grove Farm in Pomfret. It was great to see Fred Sr. and the rest of the Doten clan.   Michael Doten kindly explained the workings of their Canadian evaporator, or evaporateur, to Mr. Know Whey.




I missed it all, as I was taking pictures and had become fascinated with an old bucket. But the gist of it was, the sap flows in one end, travels through a maze of channels while boiling furiously, and eventually seeps down into the finishing tank at the end. When it hits 219F and passes the hydrometer test, it's done and is pulled off. Then it's taken to another heated container, the canner, filtered and put in the jugs, blazing hot.


This sugarhouse has a different ambiance, which I found almost Wyeth-like;





Since it's early in the season, we bought the Medium Amber, and a pint of the "Special".

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A couple of weeks later, on our daily commute, we passed, for the thousandth time, by a small sugarhouse on the side of the road.  We had watched as it was built a couple of years ago, but didn't know the guys who put it up. There is no sign. While deserted the rest of the year, it's a hive of activity in early Spring. Surrounded by pickup trucks and mud, there was smoke and steam pouring from every opening; "Let's go in", I said.




I was immediately greeted by Tom Wyman, who was soon joined by his brother Carl, the owner of a local insurance agency. There was also Andy, a young assistant. Everything was smaller here, and more personal; and once again, there was a great sense of fun.  Dave and Debbie White, owners of the dairy supply store, showed up with a pizza. Want a slice, while we hang out and make syrup?

Carl Wyman

Tom

At the same time, they were taking great care in the way they made the syrup.  And it showed. They gave me a taste in a plastic cup, and I was blown away. It's so good, that it makes you stop thinking about anything other than pancakes.  Fortunately, they didn't put much in the cup, because I was drinking it.


I stood on the business end of the machine as they loaded long pieces of wood into the fire. There was a rhythm to it: quickly open the door, and take turns loading the bundles of wood all the way in.  I stood back, and then moved much farther back as the heat from this inferno hit me:





 So far this year, I've bought two half-gallons, a quart and a pint. It seems to me that I might need a little more. I think maybe this weekend I'll swing by and see if the Grade B is coming along. Why don't you come up to Vermont and have some syrup on snow?  It's not too late.






2 comments:

  1. Can you please tell me more about this "eggs boiled in maple syrup"?!

    Katie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Katie,
    Apparently they hard-boil eggs in maple sap, not syrup... resulting in a slightly sweet egg after peeling. Hmmmm... and there were also hot dogs boiled in maple sap.... very popular, apparently!
    Sue

    ReplyDelete

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